Lesson 7: How to encourage openness and honesty
The primary goal of a Traction discipleship group is to promote transformation in individual lives and in the Church. You and I have a vision to see Christians turn from a lackluster faith to one where they are on fire for the Lord, love Him deeply, and share His burden for the lost. We want to see believers step out of stagnant Christianity and develop a personal relationship with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For this to happen, Christians must truly understand what Jesus has done for them and develop a real ownership of Biblical truths.
This ownership and transformation is most likely to take place when participants are open and honest in discussion. You may realize that this can be a challenge. People often feel vulnerable when opening up to others about personal topics like sin, struggles, and their relationship with God. But being open and honest is imperative in discussion, without it you are just acting out a play so-to-speak, and real-life transformation is not happening. So, as the discussion group leader, how do you encourage your group to be open and honest while answering the questions that you will be asking?
1. One thing you always want to do is stick to the questions in the leaders Guide. This will help you avoid inadvertently making honesty and openness harder for your participants. It keeps you from being the source of the questions and is more neutral. Asking probing personal questions beyond what is already provided can cause members in your group to feel uncomfortable. The questions in the Leader’s Guide have been developed, tested, and proven to encourage open and honest participation. If you follow the guide closely, you are more likely to be successful in creating an environment of open and honest discussion.
2. Here’s another thing to consider: People can become so absorbed in trying to figure out the ‘right answer’ that they end up missing the point of the question altogether. To avoid this, we have found it helpful to say something like, “I’m not just looking for the ‘perfect Sunday School’ answer. I genuinely want to know what you are thinking.”
3. If you notice that people are uncomfortable with a question, you can prime the pump by giving examples of how you have struggled in the particular area. As you model openness and honesty, they will feel more comfortable. Share your thoughts as briefly as possible. When preparing, you may suspect that some questions will be more difficult for your group to discuss and be able to rehearse a short answer of your own.
4. Take advantage of opportunities to show common ground. Help your group recognize that we all sin; we, as Christians, all have a new identity in Christ; we all struggle with sanctification. As members are sharing, ask the Lord to help you recognize when their thoughts connect. These connections make people more comfortable and more willing to be open.
5. Ask the Lord to help you maintain an attitude of humility, sincerity, and respect before Him and toward members in your group. Through this attitude alone will you be able to model openness and honesty and be able to lead your group to be more open and honest in their discussion. You might also explicitly encourage them to not be focused on having correct answers, but to instead be open to the Holy Spirit teaching them new insights on the topic being discussed.
This is an important insight for your group to understand: Jesus and the Bible are the source of truth. Traction is built from these truths and designed to guide and disciple participants toward a more complete understanding of them. Keep in mind that the goal of a Traction discipleship group is always to point back to the Bible and its author Jesus Christ. This will help you to stay on point, to be honest with one another, and to focus the conversation even when challenges arise. Remind your group often of this goal, model openness and honesty, pray for the Lord to guide and be honored, and watch what He does!